Wednesday, October 31, 2012

A quick note about Disqus vs. Blogger comments

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When I installed Disqus on this blog, the original requirement was that I keep the default Blogger-platform comments open for the Disqus system to override them. Unfortunately, while this worked just fine most of the time, every now and again I find a slice of spam (or the occasional unlucky commenter) has somehow slipped under Disqus and left a message on the old Blogger system, forcing me to manually repost it into Disqus using my account (thus defeating the purpose of installing the new platform with its comment filtering options in the first place).

Since installing Disqus, though, it appears that the requirement to keep Blogger-platform comments open has vanished, and after a bit of testing, I’ve found that Disqus still works perfectly under posts with Blogger comments disabled. As a result, I have permanently disabled and hidden all Blogger-platform comments on this blog, both to deter any more spam and to encourage readers to use the intended commenting system.

That is all. Now go forth and Disqus!

Daily Blend: Wednesday, October 31, 2012 – Lazy Halloween

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Snoopy (‘Peanuts’) and Jack-o’-lantern

I find myself with both an overabundance of blogging material and a critical lack of drive this evening, so here’re your links for the day.

  • Federal judge rules that police don’t need a warrant to install hidden surveillance cameras on private property. Comes with the usual *headdesk*-worthy Fourth Amendment distortions.
    (via @radleybalko)

  • A better phrasing: “Three ex-governors resort to predictably and embarrassingly bad arguments to oppose California death-penalty repeal”.
    (via @LilianaSegura; RT: @radleybalko)

  • Headline of the day contender.

  • Second contender, as well as another item to keep in mind if you ever find the odd soul wondering why no-one takes PETA seriously.
    (via Joe. My. God.)

  • While we’re at it, have this brief, pictorial Frankenstorm retrospective:

    Stormy, partly blacked out New York City skyline shortly after Hurricane Sandy (10/30/12)
    NYC shortly after Hurricane Sandy’s passage
    [source | full size (1024×722)]

    Don’t miss this spectacular, gut-wrenching special on Hurricane Sandy’s devastation at the Boston Globe’s Big Picture feature.
    (via Joe. My. God.)

    If you have any story suggestions, feel free to leave them in the comments or send them in.

    Headline of the day: An odd correction

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    From the article: “In other words, 18 percent of Americans believe President Obama is Muslim; zero percent of Americans think Obama is Jewish.” That’s … better?

    (via @radleybalko)

    Tuesday, October 30, 2012

    Daily Blend: Tuesday, October 30, 2012

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    Prison Nation
  • Scenes from the Prison State of America. Keep in mind that more than half were convicted of nonviolent offenses, in large part thanks to the Drug War.
    (via @radleybalko)

  • Lawsuit: Santa Fe, NM cop Tasers 10-year-old boy who refused to clean his patrol car.
    (via @radleybalko)

  • The only honest answer to whether global warming helped create Frankenstorm Sandy: “We don’t know, but it’s somewhat likely.”
    (via @BadAstronomer)

  • And finally, have a marshmallow-loving fox:
    (via @KyellGold)

  • If you have any story suggestions, feel free to leave them in the comments or send them in.

    A pro-choicer explains why she left the “pro-life” movement

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    Abortion: My Mind, My Body, My Choice

    I’m not usually into such “coming out” stories, but Libby Anne of Love, Joy, Feminism has penned a fascinating and truly enlightening account explaining how her belief in the sanctity of life and her desire to prevent abortions – along with an open mind – actually drove her away from her previously cherished “pro-life” movement and turned her into a pro-birth-control, pro-choice activist. It’s a moderately lengthy read, but a damned good one. Hell, even I learned a few things, which always makes me happy.

    Here’s just a taste:

    The reality is that so-called pro-life movement is not about saving babies. It’s about punishing women for having sex. That’s why they oppose birth control. That’s why they want to ban abortion even though doing so will simply drive women to have dangerous back alley abortions. That’s why they want to penalize women who take public assistance and then dare to have sex, leaving an exemption for those who become pregnant from rape. It’s not about babies. If it were about babies, they would be making access to birth control widespread and free and creating a comprehensive social safety net so that no woman finds herself with a pregnancy she can’t afford. They would be raising money for research on why half of all zygotes fail to implant and working to prevent miscarriages. It’s not about babies. It’s about controlling women. It’s about making sure they have consequences for having unapproved sex.

    Ironically, only yesterday I argued that this conclusion about most “pro-lifers” being driven by veiled sex-shaming was an overreach, and that anti-choicers simply lack the openness towards new ideas and information to recognize the contradictions inherent to their positions on abortion and birth control. The more obvious answer now is some sort of combination of the two, though I suppose I can’t ever know what really goes on in their minds. Frankly, the idea of punishing women for having sex by restricting their medical and economic well-being is so incongruous to me that I can’t even wrap my mind around it.

    Then again, maybe it’s a good thing I’m unable to empathize with thinking that sloppy. I’m just happy that Libby Anne saw the better of it, and hopeful that her exposé will help others come around as well.

    (via Friendly Atheist)

    Poll: Americans (and Catholics) oppose religious restrictions on birth control

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    Birth control

    Pity your local janitor, for the Christian-Right is likely to suffer from another round of exploding heads as a new joint poll from the ACLU and Catholics for Choice reveals that the vast majority of Americans, including Catholics, are all for reproductive rights and don’t want any religious institutions or employers using faith as an excuse to restrict access to birth control:

    Key findings include:

    • The great majority of Americans (81 percent) says, “The law should not allow companies or other institutions to use religious beliefs to decide whether to offer a service to some people and not others.”

    • Sixty-nine percent of Americans think it is wrong for a university to deny birth control coverage. An equal number of Catholics (68 percent) objects, although much of the opposition to this healthcare provision came from Catholic leaders. Seventy-seven percent of Americans, and an equal proportion of Catholics, object to pharmacies refusing to fill birth control prescriptions.

    • Eighty-seven percent of Americans (and a similar percentage of Catholics), say that a doctor should not be allowed to withhold information about fetal defects for fear a woman might consider an abortion. Sixty-eight percent of Americans, and 66 percent of Catholics, say it is wrong for a doctor to refuse to refer for an abortion.

    • Sixty-two percent of Americans and 59 percent of Catholics oppose allowing a Catholic hospital to decline to perform an abortion that is medically necessary to protect a woman’s health.

    • Eighty-eight percent of Americans and 86 percent of Catholics believe voters don’t have an obligation to follow a Catholic bishop’s recommendation on how to vote. Seventy-nine percent of Americans and 75 percent of Catholics believe Catholic politicians don’t have an obligation to follow the hierarchy’s directives.

    Wait, you mean all that talk about the decimation of religious liberty is just impotent squawking from rapacious ideologues who are actually woefully out of touch with what the general people actually wants, which is for overzealous God-botherers to leave their freedom of choice and right to bodily autonomy alone? Why, color me shocked.

    (via Dispatches from the Culture Wars)

    Headline of the day: Even the Mail couldn’t dream this up

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    (via @radleybalko)

    Monday, October 29, 2012

    Daily Blend: Monday, October 29, 2012 – Frankenstorm edition

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    Rev. John McTernan
    Rev. John McTernan

    Looks like we have a new Storm of the Century on our hands, though my area will escape the brunt of it. Be smart and stay safe, everyone.

  • I wonder if there’ll ever be a day when we look back and wonder why the hell we thought sponsoring educational institutions to encourage teenagers to destroy themselves for the public’s entertainment was okay.
    (via Pharyngula)

  • Alternate headline: Religious fruitcake John McTernan [pictured] still thinks blaming gays for bad weather is à la mode.

  • And finally, here’s a dog with spaghetti (because why not):
    (via @radleybalko)

    Dog licking at spaghetti on its head
  • If you have any story suggestions, feel free to leave them in the comments or send them in.

    Yet another study finds gays and lesbians make great parents

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    LGBT parenting

    It looks like homophobes will need yet another change of underwear, as a new report in the American Journal of Orthopsychiatry concludes that not only are same-sex parents every bit as good as their heterosexual counterparts, even when raising “high-risk” children, but they’re actually more likely to help underprivileged kids in the first place:

    Of the 82 foster children that psychologists at UCLA monitored for the study, 60 were placed with straight parents and 22 with gay or lesbian parents. After a two-year period of evaluation, the psychologists found little difference between the children’s positive outcomes.

    According to the study’s lead author, doctoral candidate Justin Lavner, “The children showed meaningful gains in heterosexual, gay and lesbian families. Their cognitive development improved substantially, while their behavior problems and social development were stable.”

    There was, however, one important difference: Gay and lesbian parents were significantly more likely to adopt children with heightened risk factors — such as premature birth, prenatal substance abuse or repeat placements in foster care. And yet, despite the additional challenges, these children made near-identical gains to the others in the study.

    This isn’t the first report that indicates how LGBT parents may actually be better on average at raising well-adjusted kids. I suspect the cause for this is more cultural than biological; after all, who better to teach young’uns to be loving and understanding than people who faced problems with acceptance back in their own formative years? There’s no reason to believe that sexual orientation in itself has anything to do with one’s parenting instincts, but our society’s treatment of LGBT people most certainly affects how they go about their child-rearing duties, having “been there”, themselves.

    Meanwhile, friend of Preliator Rob F posits the following theory:

    This is why anyone who is why simultaneously being both anti–choice and anti–LGBT adoption is a hopelessly incoherent position. These people cannot possibly think that research going on since the 1970′s and all showing the same result (same–sex couples are just as good as different–sex couples) is inadequate. The only possible explanation is that they really do believe that being raised by a same–sex couple is worse than death. If they do believe that then they really are the worst sort of homophobe. If they don’t, then they are simply the usual anti–choicer who sees forced birth as a woman’s punishment for daring to have sex. That’s why those people’s opposition to LGBT adoption is motivated not only by homophobia but also by deep misogyny.

    I see his point, but I think the answer is actually simpler. What I’ve seen from homophobes (and other regressives in general) leads me to believe that people who devote their time and energy to hatred and advocating for oppression generally lack the clarity of mind to recognize their own prejudice, resulting in an unholy amount of cognitive dissonance in their closed little minds. They can be perfectly intelligent and aware otherwise, and may even present the occasional semi-cogent (if invariably fallacious) argument, but I don’t believe they have it in them to realize the glaring incongruity in opposing both abortion and LGBT adoptive rights. Rather, they’re simply victim to knee-jerk reactionism against both and never bother to try and reconcile the differences between the two contradictory positions.

    After all, bigotry isn’t particularly renowned for its cognitive vigor.

    Edit (10/29/12 10:11 PM ET) – Fixed a typo (via Grammar Nazi).

    Sunday, October 28, 2012

    Maher on the importance of keeping Romney out of office

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    Bill Maher makes a strong point: However disappointing one may think President Obama has been, he’s at least given the nation a break from the Republican Party’s theocratic madness over the last four years. Here’s how electing Mitt Romney as the U.S.’s new Commander-in-Chief might just be a bad idea:

    Transcript: (click the [+/-] to open/close →) []

    BILL MAHER: America, before you get in bed with Mitt Romney, remember: He may seem like a nice fella from what we know about his core beliefs (nothing), his tax plan (nothing), his faith (off-limits) and his donors (anonymous), but a compulsive liar whose whole life is secret can get you a lot worse disease than Romneysia.

    Now, when I talk about getting into bed with Mitt Romney, obviously, I don’t mean that literally. [jump cut?] What I’m trying to do is make an analogy to that old public service announcement about how when you go to bed with one person, you’re not just sleeping with them; you’re … well, it’s like that with Mitt. When you elect Mitt, you’re not just electing him; you’re electing every Right-wing nut he’s pandered to in the last ten years. If the Mitt-mobile does roll into Washington, it’ll be towing behind it the whole anti-intellectual, anti-science freakshow: the abstinence obsessives, the flat-Earthers, homeschoolers, the Holy Warriors, the anti-women social neanderthals, the closeted homosexuals, and every End-Timer who sees the Virgin Mary in the grass over the septic tank.

    Now, I understand having issues with Obama, but stop to think of all the crap we haven’t had to deal with in the last four years. Anybody remember Terri Schiavo? Obama isn’t perfect, but he never turned the entire federal government into a Jesus-Freak episode of House. And he doesn’t have an Attorney General like John Ashcroft, who once covered up a statue at the Justice Department because it was showing too much tit. Like it was Janet Jackson.

    I’m just saying: The last four years, no crises about boobies. No controversies about whether stem cells are actually tiny people. No Defense of Marriage Act. No Office of Faith-Based Initiatives. [Except Obama expanded it. —JM] No peddling Creationism at the national parks. Did you know that before Obama got in, the Smithsonian couldn’t mention global warming as a possible reason the glaciers were shrinking? Because heat melting ice was just a theory.

    Yes, that was our daily diet of turd under the last sensible, business-minded Republican moderate. And before you say, “Well, that was then, this is now,” sitting in Congress right now, we’ve got a fresh can of nuts just waiting to be cracked open.

    A few weeks ago, we heard from a Republican congressman named Paul Broun. Here he is, at a dead deer convention, telling his supporters that evolution, embryology and the Big Bang theory are all “lies straight from the pit of Hell”. And he’s on the Science Committee! Along with Todd Akin. Fuck, even the deer are rolling their eyes.

    Mitt Romney might want a government full of sober gentlemen who discuss policy in quiet rooms; he’s also gonna get a bunch of snake handlers just spouting nonsense in antler-filled rooms. People like congressman Ralph Hall, who was chairman of the Science Committee and says that we don’t need to address global warming because “I don’t think we can control what God controls”. By that logic, why ever put out a fire? Or open an umbrella? Or wipe your ass?

    This is what you get with today’s Republican Party. And a new Republican administration would be an “open for business” sign to all the bizarre, Bible-thumping bullshit that the Obama administration has given us a break from. And to those who say, “Oh, don’t worry, Mitt Romney will stand up to the extreme elements of his party,” there’s just one problem with that. It has the name “Mitt Romney” and the words “stand up” in the same sentence.

    Yes, it may well be a case of lesser evils, but that’s still so much less evil that can be avoided come November 06.

    (via Joe. My. God.)

    Saturday, October 27, 2012

    Daily Blend: Saturday, October 27, 2012

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    Andrew Messina (14, 2010)
    Andrew Messina
  • Interactive map shows details on every single drone strike in Pakistan under the Obama administration. One wonders how many “militants” were actually military-aged male civilians.
    (via @ggreenwald)

  • Horrible: Cherokee County, GA parents call police asking for negotiator to help their suicidal 16-year-old son [pictured]. Cops arrive with a tank and a sniper, who then shoots and kills the boy. Parents maintain he never acted aggressively and are planning to sue.
    (via @radleybalko)

  • It’s getting hard to maintain any respect for the good done by the Cato Institute when they go and pull bullshit stunts like this.

  • If you have any story suggestions, feel free to leave them in the comments or send them in.

    Vox Day & co. don’t get satire or basic decency [updated]

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    Theodore Beale (aka Vox Day)
    Vox Day

    Geek overlord John Scalzi recently published a gut-punching piece of satire in the form of a “fan letter” to rape-excusing Republican politicians from the viewpoint of an admitted rapist. I won’t reprint it here, partially to avoid disfiguring my blog with the 72-point trigger warning disclaimer it would require, and also to avoid digressing from the subject of this post, which is that Theodore “Vox Day” Beale seems to have a thing for giving me fisking fodder.

    You see, it would be rather difficult for any intelligent and rational person to miss the glaring contrast between Scalzi’s pro-rape post and the decidedly anti-rape tone that pervades the rest of his blog. It would also be difficult for anyone aware of the scroll feature to miss Scalzi’s prominent first comment wherein he explicitly identifies his post as satire. (And never mind the delicate detail that rapists don’t announce their rapey ways on their public blogs.)

    Which brings us to noted Scalzi-basher Vox Day, whose response was originally limited to the following:

    I wonder if the SFWA will be concerned that their current president is an admitted rapist or if they'll take the approach towards him that NOW and the other feminist groups did towards Bill Clinton. Of course, unlike Scalzi, Clinton never admitted to being a rapist.

    Yes, it appears that ol’ Vox found it perfectly unexceptional that a minor celebrity and a prominent icon in the sci-fi realm would out and announce his love of sexual assault on his well-trafficked website. Methinks Mensa needs to reconsider its membership criteria.

    But after having the eye-searingly obvious pointed out to him by some commenters, Vox rushed to revamp his post about half-a-dozen times (according to the number of times I refreshed my browser to see it had again changed) so that it now reads thus:

    Wait, he claims his confession is satire? Well, that might fool anyone unfamiliar with the concept of blown cover as cover. But even if we were to take him at his word to not take him at his word, where is the satire? Satire is supposed to be ironic, but where is the irony? What is being exaggerated? Given that a) one-third of all forcible rapists are black, and, b) blacks heavily support the Democratic party while whites are fairly evenly split, the statistics indicate that it is very nearly twice as likely a rapist would be inclined to write a fan letter to a Democratic politician rather than to a conservative Republican politician.

    This week in doggycide: October 27, 2012

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    Dog chalk outline
  • Battle Creek, MI (October 16): Police respond to call about “aggressive pitbulls” abandoned by evicted tenant, shoots one (it runs away), chases the other into a neighbor’s yard and shoots it in the head while it’s cornered.
    (via Dogs Shot by Police | Facebook)

  • Springfield, MO (October 17): Cops investigate a domestic dispute, shoot a “small dog” that allegedly bit an officer’s leg and drew blood. Dog is recovering.
    (via Dogs Shot by Police | Facebook)

  • Lincoln Part, MI (October 18): Sparse report claims a family’s German Shepherd was shot and killed during a police raid. Up to five gunshots were heard.
    (via Dogs Shot by Police | Facebook)

  • Salem, OR (October 20): Cop shoots and kills “attacking” pitbull, also shoots a man (possibly the dog owner) in the foot after he tries to intervene.
    (via Dogs Shot by Police | Facebook)

  • Statistics:
    Cases: 4
    Victims: 5
    Deceased: 3 (60%)
    Survivors: 2 (40%)
    Pitbull index: 3 (60%)

    Friday, October 26, 2012

    Daily Blend: Friday, October 26, 2012

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    Ann Coulter
    Ann Coulter
  • The Twitter staff reveals their utter uselessness in dealing with death threats. I understand that they can’t do much with vague statements from random nobodies, but they could at least pretend to give a damn.

  • Kook vs. kook: You know you’re being a weapons-grade asshole [pictured] when Michelle Malkin is right to call you out on it.

  • I am officially dumbfounded that a campaign as incompetent as to produce this galling travesty of a faked image is actually a possible contender for the White House.

  • I don’t think these kids are ready to graduate just yet. (Hint.)

  • And finally, this stalwart bridge will advise you on just how tall your vehicle should be to pass under it:
    (via Roger Ebert's Journal)

  • If you have any story suggestions, feel free to leave them in the comments or send them in.

    And you will know the wingnut by their inability to write

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    John Rocker
    John Rocker

    John Rocker is a former Major League Baseball pitcher who was canned after revealing his inner bigot. This obvious assault by the PC police has naturally resulted in a new writing gig at the WorldNetDaily, that haven for sub-literate kooks and cranks of all flavors, and Rocker seems keen to fit right in by spouting masterpieces of word-salad English like this:

    We haven’t quite reached the level of expectable in the American mentality as it relates to the deterioration of individual responsibility and its replacement by the proverbial government crutch, but rest assured that day is just around the corner.

    That’s just pure gold right there. Are these people just immune to dictionaries, or has some schoolhouse trauma permanently impaired their memories of English class? There are only so many explanations to account for writing that bad. And the pseudo-intellectual flair just clinches it.

    Be sure to read the rest, if you can stomach it. At least the idiocy is overshadowed by the guaranteed hilarity.

    (via Dispatches from the Culture Wars)

    Donohue: Women just vote for Obama ’cause of abortion guilt

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    Today’s loaf of insight from the Catholic League’s Bill Donohue:

    It takes some brass for a member of a camp that’s utterly devoted to stripping away women’s rights to bodily autonomy and reproductive healthcare to accuse the other side of being “obsessed” with anything. Because, of course, the only reason women would vote for a President who’s done more than most previous presidents combined to grant them the personal and social freedoms they’ve been denied until now – under the same brand of thinking espoused by people like Donohue – is because they’re regret-ridden harlots. Or something.

    Maybe I should just stop trying to read any indication of sense or decency into Donohue’s claptrap.

    Thursday, October 25, 2012

    Headline of the day

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    South Dakota ad wants you to vote against the smart choice

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    I’m confused. This is an ad by the Republican Party of South Dakota about the “radically different visions” held by incumbent Rep. Kristi Noem (R) and candidate Matt Varilek (D). Being from the Republicans, you’d expect the ad to try and sell Noem as some well-qualified visionary while tearing at Varilek’s supposed bumbling incompetence … yet, after a careful evaluation, I can’t help but think it’s trying to encourage Noem’s supporters to defect to Varilek in droves:

    Transcript: (click the [+/-] to open/close →) []

    Kristi Noem. Matt Varilek. Radically different backgrounds, radically different visions for South Dakota.

    1997, Arizona: Matt Varilek gets a degree in environmental studies and starts teaching at the Biosphere II, known as an incubator for radical environmental ideas. Back in South Dakota, Kristi Noem is named Outstanding Young Farmer of the Year by the Watertown Jaycees.

    1999: Matt Varilek earns a Master’s Degree at the University of Glasgow, Scotland, and is named the Greenhouse Gas Emissions Broker for Natsource, a company that profits from cap-and-trade energy taxes.

    2000: Matt Varilek authors a document advocating a global cap-and-trade scheme, while Kristi Noem is managing the family farm in Hamlin County.

    2001: Varilek attends Cambridge University in England to for additional environmental study. Varilek goes to Marrakesh, Morocco, promoting a global cap-and-trade plan at a United Nations global warming summit. Back in South Dakota, Kristi is living in Castlewood, farming, raising a family, helping to balance the books and manage a family restaurant.

    2003: Matt Varilek is in Milan, Italy, speaking at another U.N. global warming summit. Back in South Dakota, Kristi Noem receives the South Dakota Young Leader Award from the South Dakota Soybean Association.

    2004: Matt Varilek leaves his job as policy director for Natsource to become a Washington, D.C. political staffer.

    2006: Matt Varilek hosts a raucous “National Corn Dog Day” party in his swanky D.C. neighborhood, serving more than one thousand corn dogs, 1,200 beers, and a 150-pound ice luge for consuming shots of Jägermeister.

    2006: Kristi Noem wins a seat in the state legislature representing north-eastern South Dakota in Pierre.

    Sioux Falls, 2008: Matt Varilek is back “corn-dogging” again, defending his title as one of the few to achieve a “triple double” for his beer and corn dog consumption. As for Kristi Noem in 2008, well, she was still looking out for South Dakota taxpayers and still representing her friends and neighbors in the legislature.

    Matt Varilek or Kristi Noem: Radical ideas or South Dakota common sense? Who do you trust to represent South Dakota?

    Paid for by the South Dakota Republican Party

    To be fair, I’ve never heard of either Noem or Varilek until now. And from seeing this ad, all I’m getting from this is that one candidate is a highly educated, motivated and ambitious achiever who has experienced the outside world and knows the ins and outs of Washington politics (and can throw the occasional fun party), while the other’s experience boils down to farming and working at a restaurant. Not that those aren’t fine endeavors, but it does give rise to an odd contrast when comparing their skills and know-how in terms of their competence for governmental representation.

    Of course, that’s just my interpretation as someone who values education and wisdom. One can only guess what the anti-intellectual blighters whom this ad actually appeals to will think about it, insofar as thought has anything to do with it. (Case in point: Noem currently holds a slight lead over Varilek in the polls.)

    (via Friendly Atheist)

    Wednesday, October 24, 2012

    Daily Blend: Wednesday, October 24, 2012

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    Rebecca Watson
    Rebecca Watson
  • Rebecca Watson [pictured] writes at Slate about her experience dealing with the ugly sexist underbelly of the atheo-skeptic community.
    (via Pharyngula)

  • Anyone else wondering how long before the Right starts claiming that “Obama doesn’t care about charity!” when the President doesn’t humor Donald Trump’s latest ridiculous stunt?

  • Another sign of the impending Gaypocalypse: Sharks falling from the skies!
    (via @radleybalko)

  • If you have any story suggestions, feel free to leave them in the comments or send them in.

    Ex-White House spox: Murdered teen should’ve had better father

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    Abdulrahman al-Awlaki (16)
    Abdulrahman al-Awlaki

    I first read this tweet about “justif[ying] killing a child by saying he should have had a better father” thinking it was a reiteration of the common anti-abortion canard that terminating a rape pregnancy meant “punishing” the child-to-be for the father’s crime. Thankfully, it was about something completely different.

    Something much worse:

    How does Team Obama justify killing [16-year-old U.S. citizen Abdulrahman al-Awlaki, son of deceased accused terrorist Anwar al-Awlaki]?

    The answer [Robert] Gibbs gave is chilling:

    ADAMSON: ...It's an American citizen that is being targeted without due process, without trial. And, he's underage. He's a minor.

    GIBBS: I would suggest that you should have a far more responsible father if they are truly concerned about the well being of their children. I don't think becoming an al Qaeda jihadist terrorist is the best way to go about doing your business.

    Again, note that this kid wasn't killed in the same drone strike as his father. He was hit by a drone strike elsewhere, and by the time he was killed, his father had already been dead for two weeks. Gibbs nevertheless defends the strike, not by arguing that the kid was a threat, or that killing him was an accident, but by saying that his late father irresponsibly joined al Qaeda terrorists.

    Abdulrahman wasn’t a terrorist, or even an alleged sympathizer. He wasn’t on any “kill list”, nor was he accused of anything beyond setting out to find his father after having not seen him in the years since the latter went into hiding. His sole crime was that his parent had aligned himself with al-Qaeda, indicating no misbehavior or ill will on the kid’s part. He was essentially murdered because of his father’s alleged misdeeds.

    And according to the former White House Press Secretary and current senior advisor to the Obama campaign, that rationale is just peachy.

    At least one possible silver lining to such a staggeringly amoral pronouncement is that it’s likely to shed more public light on the story of the President’s extrajudicial murder spree, including of innocent and otherwise non-convicted U.S. citizens.

    (via RT: @radleybalko)

    Tuesday, October 23, 2012

    Daily Blend: Tuesday, October 23, 2012

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    Tawfiq Okasha (Egyptian talk show host)
    Tawfiq Okasha

    Welp, as of this evening, I’m officially a student again. At least I’ll be studying from home this time, which effectively nullifies 95% of all my previous issues with school. Now, if I could only remember how to hold a pencil … (It’s between the thumb and index, right? Wait, don’t tell me, I’ll get it!)

  • The reality: to start allowing ads from all sides. The perception: The site’s turning into a Republican-run anti-abortion corporatocracy!
    (via Joe. My. God.)

  • This is censorship: Egyptian TV host gets four months in jail for “insulting” President Muhammad Morsi.
    (via @dmataconis; RT: @radleybalko)

  • After Arizona, a federal appeals court prohibits Indiana from defunding state Planned Parenthood affiliates.

  • If you have any story suggestions, feel free to leave them in the comments or send them in.

    Monday, October 22, 2012

    Daily Blend: Monday, October 22, 2012

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    Anne Germain
    Anne Germain
  • Amnesty International: Secret US Drone Program Still Getting Away With Killing Children.
    (via @AntDeRosa; RT: @radleybalko)

  • Federal judge blocks Arizona bill that would defund all Planned Parenthood clinics in the state.

  • Yet another psychic, Britain’s Anne Germain [pictured], is exposed as a Peter Popoff-style con artist.

  • Meanwhile, guess what happened after this “facilitated communication” practitioner was proven wrong. (No, really. You’ll be surprised.)
    (via Rob F)

  • Why isn’t the IRS doing anything about all the tax-exempt churches breaking the law by endorsing candidates?

  • PZ Myers writes brilliantly about the problems with dismissing responsibility for online trolling with excuses of “free speech!”.

  • And finally: Paul Ryan poses for fake photo op at soup kitchen against their wishes. Soup kitchen owner complains. Ryan supporters lash out … at soup kitchen.
    (via Dispatches from the Culture Wars)

  • If you have any story suggestions, feel free to leave them in the comments or send them in.

    Italian scientists sentenced to jail for being “too reassuring” before deadly earthquake

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    Bernardo de Bernardinis in court
    Bernardo de Bernardinis in court

    Science on trial, conviction edition: After being accused of providing false reassurance about the risks of a deadly earthquake right before a large one struck L’Aquila, Italy and resulted in heavy casualties, the scientists responsible have now had their day in court – and lost:

    Six Italian scientists and an ex-government official have been sentenced to six years in prison over the 2009 deadly earthquake in L'Aquila.

    A regional court found them guilty of multiple manslaughter.

    Prosecutors said the defendants gave a falsely reassuring statement before the quake, while the defence maintained there was no way to predict major quakes.

    The 6.3 magnitude quake devastated the city and killed 309 people.

    This is asinine. As tragic as the disaster was, the idea that scientists should be punished – much less imprisoned – for failing to describe the exact date, location and size of the next earthquake is complete lunacy, and that it’s actually come to pass should be singularly enough to destroy anyone’s trust in the Italian judicial system. And even worse is the fact that not only didn’t the scientists actually do anything wrong, they never even made the “falsely reassuring statement” in the first place, as it was instead pronounced by former VP of the Civil Protection Agency, Bernardo de Bernardinis. In it, he actually misrepresented the scientists’ opinions, as they had actually told him that risks were low, but still very much present, contrary to his subsequent declaration that everyone was perfectly safe.

    If anyone ought to be punished, it should be de Bernardinis and him alone, as he’s the official who put words in the experts’ mouths in order to cover his own ass. As it stands, six perfectly capable and innocent individuals are being thrown behind bars not only for a crime they never committed, but for failing to do something that’s absolutely impossible with our current equipment and know-how. It’s a sickening outrage.

    (via @BadAstronomer)

    Illinois foster children doing just fine without Catholic Charities

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    Catholic Charities of Illinois logo

    In summer of 2011, a rift developed between the State of Illinois and Catholic Charities when the religious adoption agency decided they wouldn’t comply with a new law forbidding them from discriminating against gay and lesbian couples when considering foster homes. The conflict came to a frustrated but necessary end when the government refused to give in to the Catholic group’s bigotry and instead canceled their contracts altogether.

    Naturally, there were concerns that some children might be put at risk when their adoption agency closed its doors. But as it turns out, secular and otherwise non-discriminatory organizations were more than happy to step in, and the transition has gone off without a hitch:

    [The Baby Fold adoption agency] is the second newcomer since the state ended its four-decade relationship with Catholic Charities to handle foster care cases. The final cases were transferred from Catholic Charities in November.

    “I’m glad to say in the process of transferring Catholic Charities’ contracts to other private agencies, no children were removed from homes, no foster families lost, as had been predicted,” [Department of Children and Family Services] spokesman Kendall Marlowe said.

    Foster care cases in the Springfield area are now divided between Lutheran Child & Family Services of Illinois, which has handled area foster care cases since the early 1990s, and The Center for Youth & Family Solutions, which acquired the cases formerly overseen by Catholic Charities for the Dioceses of Springfield and Peoria.

    How’s that for a victory all around? The children can still be adopted, LGBT foster parents won’t be shut out, and the discriminatory zealots get tossed aside in the tide of progress. This also serves as a slamming repudiation to any other discriminatory religious groups who think they can put their detrimental beliefs above the well-being of those entrusted to their care without consequence.

    I can only hope other such incidents go this smoothly when they inevitably start occurring in other states.

    (via Friendly Atheist)

    The Thinking Atheist visits Ken Ham’s Creation “Museum”

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    The always enlightening godless YouTuber Seth Andrews, better known as The Thinking Atheist, recently went on a tour of Kentucky’s notorious Creation “Museum”, that monument to religious delusion owned by Ken Ham of Answers in Genesis. Below is a summary of the ten lessons he learned during his little escapade into Christian fundy-land:

    Summary: (click the [+/-] to open/close →) []

    Seth “The Thinking Atheist” Andrews goes on his first tour of Ken Ham’s “wretched hive of dumb and villainy”, the Creation Museum near Petersburg, Kentucky, on Friday, October 05, 2012. He first meets up with a few other skeptics from around the region who are also curious about the Museum. On their way over, Andrews disagrees that the Museum is a “literal interpretation of what Scripture says”, saying it’s rather a “literal interpretation of what Ken Ham says” and that there are other kinds of Biblical Creationists than Ham’s version of Young-Earth literalism.

    LESSON ONE: Drop the coin.

    There’s a coin funnel near the entrance that encourages visitors to “drop coins” and “watch the fun!”, which Andrews characterizes as “very telling”.

    LESSON TWO: Kids love dinosaurs.

    Dinosaurs (and other prehistoric beasts) are everywhere at the Creation Museum as skeletons, statues, animatronics and photo ops.

    LESSON THREE: Dinosaurs love kids!

    According to the Museum, dinosaurs – including carnivores like raptors – “coexisted with human beings” in the Garden of Eden “like pets or companions”. (A carnivorous dinosaur is depicted as grazing through vegetation.) The further they advance through the Museum, the more they see everything seems designed to appeal to children and “mold the[ir] minds”, and the message presented throughout is crystal clear:

    LESSON FOUR: God is under attack!

    Andrews wonders why an omnipotent and all-powerful God would be concerned about any human “attack”, but the Creation Museum folks seemed “pretty alarmed about it”. The Museum blames this on modern scientists who advance claims and theories that contradict the Bible, pitting “Man’s Word” against “God’s Word”, which disagrees with the notion of evolution and an old Earth and Universe. Instead:

    LESSON FIVE: Humans descended from a dirt-man and rib-woman about 6,000 years ago.

    Once upon a time, Adam and Eve enjoyed the beautiful Garden of Eden along with lambs, penguins and vegetarian dinosaurs. All was well, until …

    LESSON SIX: Don’t listen to the snake!

    Adam and Eve “angered God” when they fell victim to the Serpent’s temptation and ate the Forbidden Fruit, at which point they were evicted from Paradise and “the whole world went to shit”. Because:

    LESSON SEVEN: When you disobey God, the whole world goes to shit.

    Adam & Eve’s “single act of rebellion, thousands of years ago, is the reason we have starving children, predatory animals and wars, pain and crime and death the Nazis”. A&E’s sin even “destroyed the vegetarian diet”, even amongst the animals (and dinosaurs). In addition, adding to the “mountain of self-inflicted Cosmic Pain”, A&E’s sin is also responsible for:

    LESSON EIGHT: Original Sin created weeds!

    Then again, the global infestation of both weeds and humans “shouldn’t be a problem for us”, as …

    LESSON NINE: God’s plan involved incest.

    A sign reads: “Genesis 5:4 teaches that Adam and Eve had sons and daughters. So, originally, brothers had to marry sisters,” and, “All humans are related. So whenever someone gets married, they marry their relative.” Unfortunately, the evil of humankind would eventually boil over into the Global Flood. The Creation Museum spends a lot of time teaching visitors about Noah’s Ark, from how it was built to how the fossil record supposedly “proves” the Flood happened, along with showing how the stalls inside the Ark were maintained (showing more dinosaurs aboard the Ark). Everyone was invited to put together God’s plan to wipe out the vast majority of life on Earth “like a puzzle”.

    LESSON TEN: Everything is our fault.

    One recurring theme – “outside of how evil the teachings of Evolution are” – is that “God’s Word [is] never to be questioned, ever”. The phrase “God’s Word” is everywhere in the Museum, demanding trust and obedience, whilst discouraging visitors from relying on “Human Reason”, as our minds are “merely a conduit for misinformation” and “thinking for ourselves is what caused all of our troubles to begin with”.

    Andrews summarizes his experience at the Creation Museum as “jarring”. He is sickened by how the “thousands of impressionable, insulated children brought there by religious parents” get brainwashed, and he’s angry that the Museum presents its deluded nonsense as “legitimate science”. The other skeptics are of the same mind, decrying how the Museum is so slick and well-made that it seems to hide the “terrible story” that festers within. They are similarly outraged at how many young children were running around inside the Museum, excited by all the dinosaurs and flashy visuals, possibly being led to believe the garbage information they were being fed was truth. They expressed their worries about what the existence of such a house of lies could mean for the future of scientific ability in the United States.

    Ultimately, Andrews labels the Creation Museum a “slick, fanciful, high-dollar guilt trip” and “a church decorated with dinosaurs”. If he had been the one to name “this particular Kentucky attraction”, he would’ve called it “Jurassic Lark”.

    Essentially, his visit reaffirms what every rational being already knows: Ken Ham’s pseudo-scientific farce is no more than a disgrace to human reason doubling as a trap for impressionable children who go there for all the pretty dinosaurs and leave with minds filled with bullshit. “Jurassic Lark”, indeed.

    (via Friendly Atheist)

    Saturday, October 20, 2012

    More fun with the anti-Atheism+ brigade [updated]

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    Scarlet ‘A+’ of Atheism Plus

    There’s really no denying that I’m a glutton for punishment at this point, and it only gets worse when I find myself bored late at night. The following transpired over Twitter after I decided that poking the hornets’ nest might liven things up a bit. If anything, it’s a useful (if disconcerting) glance into the mindsets of those who see the rise of the Atheism+ (sub)movement as the latest great threat to the godless community’s patriarchal pride.

    It began as I posted the following:

    As always, it’s difficult to divide thoughts that would take paragraphs to flesh out adequately into blurbs that fit within 140 characters, but the gist carries across nonetheless. Regardless of “waves” and what the hoi polloi wants to believe, the entire point of feminism is to decry gender inequality and to fight for the equal treatment of both men and women under the law and in general society. Opposing this logically entails opposing the struggle for women’s rights. I find it hard to believe that there might be other reasons for doing so that don’t invariably boil down to regressive attitudes towards the role of women in society, whatever one’s reasons for feeling that way may be. (After all, misogyny isn’t only the overt hatred of women; it’s the totality of sexist attitudes, both apparent and abstract.)

    It wasn’t long before the “discussion” began. Here’s a representative sample of the replies I received, presented both for educational and entertainment purposes. (Some are shown out of chronological order to preserve consistency; others are omitted either for brevity or to avoid giving air time to more tedious trolls.)

    This week in doggycide: October 20, 2012

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    Dog chalk outline
  • Wichita, KS (September 30): Officer detains woman in her driveway, ignores her pleas to secure a window before her dog escapes, then shoots Mister the pitbull three times in the head for jumping out and approaching them with a waggy tail. Multiple witnesses shoot down the cop’s lies about Mister supposedly “charging” him and his police dog.
    (via Dogs Shot by Police | Facebook)

  • San Antonio, TX (October 14): Cop responds to wrong address, shoots Magnum the pitbull in the face despite later admitting that the dog was “not growling or anything”. Dog is expected to recover.
    (via Dogs Shot by Police | Facebook)

  • Statistics:
    Cases: 2
    Victims: 2
    Deceased: 1 (50%)
    Survivors: 1 (50%)
    Pitbull index: 2 (100%)

    Preacher gives typical anti-gay speech … or not

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    Pastor Phil Snider of Brentwood Christian Church in Springfield, Missouri attended a city council hearing back in August to rail against the city’s anti-discrimination law for including protections for LGBT folk. It’s all the same crap we’ve heard ten million times before – fear-mongering about special rights and the end of society as we know it and so on … until he appears to realize just how unoriginal he sounds. And what happens next makes the entire three-minute video entirely and epically worth it:

    Transcript: (click the [+/-] to open/close →) []

    REV. PHIL SNIDER: Good evening. My name is the Rev. Dr. Phil Snider. I was born and raised in Springfield, Missouri, and I stand before you this evening in support of this ordnance.

    I worry about the future of our city. Any accurate reading of the Bible should make it clear that gay rights goes against the plain truth of the Word of God. As one preacher warns, Man and over stepping the boundary lines God has drawn by making special rights for gays and lesbians has taken another step in the direction of inviting the judgement of God upon our land. This step of gay rights is but another stepping stone toward the immorality and lawlessness that would be characteristic of the last days.

    This ordnance represents a denial of all that we believe in and no-one should force it on us. It’s not that we don’t care about homosexuals, but it’s that our rights will be taken away, and un-Christian views will be forced on us and our children, for we will be forced to go against our personal morals.

    Outside government agents are endeavoring to disturb God’s established order. It is not inline with the Bible. Do not let people lead you astray.

    The liberals leading this movement do not believe the Bible any longer. But every good, substantial, Bible-believing, intelligent, orthodox Christian can read the word of God and know what is happening is not of God.

    When you run into conflict with God’s established order, you have trouble. You do not produce harmony. You produce destruction and trouble and our city is in the greatest danger than it is ever been in its history.

    The reason is that we’ve gotten away from the Bible of our forefathers. You see the right of segregation – I’m sorry, hold on.

    The right … of segregation is clearly established by the holy scriptures … both by precept and example …

    [One minute]

    I’m sorry. I’ve brought the wrong notes with me this evening. I’ve borrowed my argument from the wrong century. It turns out what I have been reading to you this whole time is direct quotes from White preachers from the 1950s and the 1960s, all in support of racial segregation.

    All I have done is simply take out the phrase “racial integration” and substituted it with the phrase “gay rights”. I guess the arguments I’ve been hearing around Springfield lately sounded so similar to these that I got them confused. I hope you will not make the same mistake. I hope you will stand on the right side of history. Thank you.

    (To be honest, his introduction kinda gave away the punch for me, but your mileage may vary.)

    You know what? I’m perfectly fine with him being a preacher. It’s not ideal, perhaps, but it beats the ever-loving hell out of the parasitic charlatans we have to deal with on a much more regular basis. Our world could do with a few less Pat Robertsons and a few more Rev. Sniders.

    (via @BadAstronomer)

    Friday, October 19, 2012

    Daily Blend: Friday, October 19, 2012

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    Jenny McCarthy
    Jenny McCarthy
  • Guess who’s been caught committing actual voter fraud yet again? Virginia Republicans.

  • Days after adopting a new policy to support transgender students, Illinois’s East Aurora School Board caves in to Christianist bullies and rescinds it. Now that’s how you tell vulnerable kids their rights aren’t worth standing up for.

  • Today in Bizarro World: Antivaccination pseudo-celebrity Jenny McCarthy [pictured] lands deal for a Chicago Sun-Times column on “being a good parent”.

  • Godlessness is on the rise in Ireland, too.

  • That’s gotta hurt as Romney loses the Salt Lake Tribune.

  • Which is possibly due to things like this: “Mitt has always been a pro-life person; he governed, when he ran, as a pro-choice […]

  • Classy quote of the day about Wisconsin Senate hopeful Tammy Baldwin (D): “The last thing [Wisconsinites] need is Barney Frank in a dress.
    (via Joe. My. God.)

  • If you have any story suggestions, feel free to leave them in the comments or send them in.

    Australian police accuses Catholic Church of covering up child abuse

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    Clerical child abuse (boy with Cross-shaped facial highlight)

    The only thing that ever seems to change about allegations that the Catholic Church is responsible for covering up decades’ worth of clerical child abuse is which country they come from next. It’s now Australia’s turn, where local law enforcement has a bit of a bone to pick with the Church:

    VICTORIA Police has launched a scathing attack on the Catholic Church, accusing it of deliberately impeding its investigations into child abuse.

    In a submission to the parliamentary inquiry into the handling of child abuse by churches, signed by Chief Commissioner Ken Lay, police recommend that some of the church's actions to hinder investigations be criminalised.

    The submission lists a number of ways in which the church has hindered the criminal justice process, including dissuading victims of sexual crimes from reporting them to police, failing to engage with police and alerting suspects of allegations against them, ''which may have resulted in loss of evidence''.

    It says the church moved or protected known or suspected sexual offenders. While the submission notes the church has recently improved co-operation with police, in some cases it has been reluctant to provide information even when a warrant was issued.

    Police also say the typical delay in reports of sex offences within the church means more reports of alleged offences from the 1990s and early 2000s are expected in coming years.

    To further confirm the pattern, expect a fresh defense of the Church’s actions from the Catholic League’s Bill Donohue in less time than it takes for a priest to shove an altar boy’s head under his frock.

    (via @rdfrs)

    Rep. Joe Walsh: Abortion is never needed to save women’s lives

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    Rep. Joe Walsh (R-IL)
    Rep. Joe Walsh (R-IL)

    Former deadbeat dad and current jackass Rep. Joe Walsh (R-IL) has apparently yet to learn to just keep his gormless mouth shut:

    Asked by reporters after the debate if he was saying that it’s never medically necessary to conduct an abortion to save the life of a mother, Walsh responded, “Absolutely.”

    “With modern technology and science, you can't find one instance,” he said. “... There is no such exception as life of the mother, and as far as health of the mother, same thing.”

    Isn’t it fun – by which I mean sickening – how so many of these cranks are perfectly willing to risk the needless deaths of countless women out of sheer cluelessness? I mean, it’s not like women still died from bad pregnancies all the time or that anyone’s out there talking about how abortion saved their life or anything, right?

    At least this one isn’t on any governmental science committee.

    Thursday, October 18, 2012

    Daily Blend: Thursday, October 18, 2012

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    Alber Saber
    Alber Saber
  • Deceased parent, leg injury, financial difficulties, and now (treatable) cancer: Please consider helping Greta Christina any way you can.

  • Egyptian lawyer’s rationale for arresting, imprisoning and brutalizing atheist Alber Saber [pictured]: He hurt people’s feelings and insulted God on Facebook. Or, Why Secularism Matters.

  • Christianist hate group goes antivaccination, fear-mongers about HPV vaccine to try and scare underage girls into not having sex.

  • Douche-meister Bradlee Dean is still very, very sore over losing his bogus defamation suit against MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow.

  • If you have any story suggestions, feel free to leave them in the comments or send them in.